Makes 12 buns
250ml whole milk, warmed to room temperature
14g fast-action dried yeast
40g caster sugar
80g butter, melted and cooled
450g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp Maldon sea salt
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
For the filling
120g butter, softened
1 tsp plain flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
80g chopped pecans
100g soft light brown sugar
1 medium egg, lightly beaten (for brushing)
For the syrup
4 tbsp golden syrup
6 tbsp water
For the topping
Flaked almonds or more chopped pecans
200g icing sugar, sieved
2-3 tbsp water
Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a dough hook, sprinkle in the yeast and caster sugar and gently whisk together for a couple of seconds. Cover and leave for 10-15 minutes until it starts to become frothy. Work the machine up to a mid-speed and add the cooled, melted butter. Allow to combine with the yeast for a minute or two.
In a large mixing bowl, weigh out the flour and add the cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Use a balloon whisk to blend it altogether. Start adding the flour mix to the food mixer, a couple of scoops at a time until it is all in and then add the beaten egg. Keep kneading the dough for 5 minutes. You may need to pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated. You want a slightly tacky dough, but not so sticky it won’t come off your hands. The best way to tell is to give it a little poke and see; if it’s a bit tacky add another sprinkle of flour. I quite like to do the last little bit of kneading by hand so I can feel it and see how the dough is behaving, adding a little more flour if needed.
Once the consistency is right, shape the dough into a ball and place it into a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and allow the yeast to do its thing. When the dough has doubled in size (approx. 45 minutes but do keep an eye on it) sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface and gently tip the dough out. Knock back the dough with your hands. Shape the dough into a rough rectangle and then use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a 45 x 55 cm rectangle. The dough should be around 5mm thick. At first it will probably try and fight you, but keep going and eventually it will stay put!
In a mixing bowl add the butter, flour, cinnamon, pecans and sugar. Mix everything together well. Using a spatula or palette knife, carefully spread the mixture evenly over the rolled-out dough. Make sure everything is covered right up to the edges, except for a centimetre on the top edge. Then start to roll the dough up lengthways, until you have a tight, long sausage shape. When you get to the end, and the dough with no filling, brush it with a little of the egg wash and finish rolling so it makes a seal.
Use a sharp knife to carefully trim the ends (these can be the cooks testing perk) and then slice the dough into 12 even slices. Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking paper and lay 6 rounds onto each, with plenty of space as they will expand in the second proving.
Preheat the oven to 200°C fan.
Leave them to one side under a clean tea towel or cling film for another 30-40 minutes or so until they have risen and doubled in size again. If you press the tip of your little finger into the dough it should leave a little dent when they are ready.
Gently brush each bun on the top and sides with beaten egg and pop the trays into the preheated oven to bake for around 15-18 minutes. Watch the buns carefully as they will want to take on a lot of colour very quickly. After 12 minutes, it is safe to pull out the trays and swop them around to make sure they cook evenly.
For the syrup, heat together the golden syrup and the water in a saucepan until combined.
When the buns are a lovely deep golden, remove from the oven and brush with the warmed syrup. Sprinkle over the almonds if using. If you want to add a little more decoration with some water icing mix the icing sugar and enough water to get a consistency that will drizzle nicely. Add a final decorative flourish with some nuts and devour with a coffee.
Photograph by Catherine Frawley